(I am currently running a GoFundMe on making exhibition prints for this project, please help if you can. See here)
While we have made strides in equality and human rights, trans people are still being ostracized, and crude demonized caricatures of trans people are used by hostile politicians to advance divisive agendas. The suicide rate for trans people, especially among teens, is much higher than average, and trans people are frequently the victims of hate crimes, as well as victims of discrimination.
[expand title=”…Read more of the Artist Statement”]
People born in bodies that don’t match their brain’s gender, people who feel binary archetypes do not represent who they actually are, and people who are intersex are members of the gender expansive community. They come from all walks of life, and they want to live a decent life like everyone else. They know who they really are, despite those who might want to dictate who they should be and how, even whether, they should express their own truth.
This project was started in 2016, when the hateful political rhetoric of “bathroom bills” thrust transgender human and civil right issues to the forefront of the American psyche.
The goal of this project is to tell their stories, and show who they are. Even in just a few years since the project was begun, our language and society have already experienced some positive change. In 2016, “transgender” was generally a foreign concept to “mainstream” society. In 2019, at least in some circles, young children or teenagers are more able to come out as trans with supportive parents, not because it’s a trendy thing to do, but because that is who they are.
Non-binary, gender-fluid, trans-androgyous, etc. are still fairly novel terms in our language. Referring to someone as “they” (or other pronoun of choice), even if they are a friend that you have known for a long time, takes some practice to get right. However, trans rights are civil rights, and civil rights are human rights. The stories of marginalized people need to be told, and be told in a respectful manner. Richard uses a 4×5 camera to take high-quality portraits of people as they wish to be seen, and spends time to connect with the subjects and learn the stories they have to tell.
One may ask: why is a cisgender male doing a portrait project on this subject? The reality is that, in USA, unless one is white and cisgender, one always carries a “label”. Richard is Chinese American, and will never “pass” in the so-called mainstream white-dominant society because of his face and accent. In an ideal world, none of us should have a “label” or be marginalized by society, but the world is not ideal (least of all under the current administration) and we cannot get away from being labelled.
Being trans and out takes tremendous courage, and yet, “hidden and silent” will not change the societal status quo, and allows others to impose their own definitions and agenda upon the voiceless. Richard is not trans, but his goal is to be a good ally. He is doing this project because he fiercely believe it needs to be done.
Below are some sample images and their stories. I understand that it could be problematic to be open, I will use only a first name or a pseudonym. Also, here is a link to a slightly outdated slideshow showing more of the images and (expanded) stories: http://richardman.photo/PICS/HeartsOnOurSleeves-Portfolio/